Leader Spotlight: Atsuko Yamaguchi

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: Atsuko Yamaguchi. She is climb, scramble, and hike leader with the Everett Branch who led a scrambling trip to Japan over the summer!
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Volunteer Development Manager
October 29, 2019

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Atsuko Yamaguchi, a volunteer leader with the Everett Branch who encourages all group members to be active participants!

Name: Atsuko Yamaguchi
Branch: Everett
Where do you live? Lake Forest Park, WA
How long have you been a leader? 5 years (member since 2003)
What activities do you lead? Climbing, Scrambling, Hiking, Global Adventures

Leadership Questions

What inspired you to become a Leader for The Mountaineers?

I thought it would be a good idea to motivate myself to get into the mountains regularly. I also wanted to give back to The Mountaineers community. Of course, being a leader also gives me learning opportunities to grow as a better person.

What is your favorite trip that you've led for The Mountaineers?

My favorite trip was a climb I did two years ago of the Fisher Chimneys route on Mt. Shuksan. I did not lead this trip, but I would like to lead a climb of this route in the near future. What made the trip so special was that it happened to be an all-female team. I was excited and thrilled to discover this, as I had never climbed with an all-women team before. I had a blast with these female climbers! Fisher Chimneys is also such a challenging route, especially in late season. We climbed it in August, and this climb had everything: scramble, steep snow fields, glacier, rock, and ice. I loved the variety of terrains, and I especially enjoyed being among strong and competent women climbers!

How has your leadership style evolved as you've gained experience?

As I've gained more experience, I've become more comfortable and confident. My leadership style has become more collaborative. I ask everyone about their comfort level when we encounter challenging sections, and I try to listen to individual opinions and make a group decision. My leadership style has definitely become more relaxed and flexible.

What learning experiences you can share with us, such as take-aways from a close call or a near miss?

When I was a just starting as a Basic Climbing student, I had to do an unplanned bivy on one of my very first trips. This was a private trip with more experienced climbers, and we were attempting a one day climb of the West Ridge route on Mt. Stuart. We ran out of time and had to stop climbing below the summit block. The lesson I learned from this experience is to not just be a follower. You need to prepare as if you could end up being the one in charge. Research the route that you will go on, know the terrain that you will be traveling on, know what kind of challenges you might face, and always have a plan for the worst case scenario. You should know how to get down to a safe location without your leader. Do your homework before you go.

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in The Mountaineers community?

There are many styles of leadership that work. Find a leadership style that is most comfortable for you and practice it. Be sensitive and considerate of others and always be observant of your surroundings, how your team is doing, and weather changes.

Is there aNYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU?

This past summer, I took seven mountaineers to Japan's Northern Alps to scramble several 10,000-foot peaks as a part of a Global Adventures trip. It was so much fun with great people. This trip was one of the first Eastern Asia trips for The Mountaineers, and I would like to plan another trip like this in year 2021. If you have not gotten out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend that you step outside of it, as it may blow your mind!

is there Someone that you'd like to see in the spotlight?

Send an email to Sara Ramsay to make a recommendation for one of our upcoming Leader Spotlights!


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Tina Fox
Tina Fox says:
Tue, Oct 29, 2019 10:48 AM

Loved this!, especially the advice to not be just a follower. You nevery know what will occur that will put you in charge (either of yourself or a group). No matter what your experience, do your own preparation, be your own leader, follow the Climb Code.

Mark Glidden
Mark Glidden says:
Thu, Oct 31, 2019 12:39 PM

Way to go Atsuko!

Eugene Keltgen
Eugene Keltgen says:
Thu, Oct 31, 2019 5:48 PM

Atsuko,
I enjoyed being on your South Winter Spires climb this summer. I appreciate your leadership style.

Jacob Lopilato
Jacob Lopilato says:
Tue, Nov 5, 2019 11:57 AM

Great leader! So glad to see her recognized here!